2 points | Post submitted by suyash95 159 days ago | 13 comments
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what are they
Do mantras work?
MANTRA is derived thus - “mananāt trāyate iti mantraḥ” - a mantra is that which protects you from thinking!
A mantra is a focussing and centering device for one’s default involuntary thought stream. It is not magical formula like abracadabra learned at Hogwarts.
To get a mastery of a mantra requires intensive sādhana which few people are able or willing to practice, so the best way to use a mantra is given here.
The mahāmrtyunjaya mantra is claimed to promote health and longevity.
The well researched scientific factors of health are (1) diet (2) exercise and (3) sleep.
So here’s what you do:-
If you apply this regime the mantra will definitely work on promoting your health and longevity.
What is the science behind the Shraddha ritual in Hinduism?
Shrāddha comes from the root meaning “faith” or “conviction” or “trust” and refers to the periodic ceremonies done for dead people - specifically for our parents, grand-parents and great-grand-parents.
Pitru-yajña or Discharge of the Debt to Ancestors in one of the Pancha-Mahā-Yajñas which are incumbent upon every Hindu and the performance of the Shrāddha ceremonies constitute the repayment of the debt.
There is no “science” there is the “moral code” which impels us to express recognition and gratitude for all that the decease parent has done to benefit us. This debt lasts as long as we live and so Shāddha is an on-going duty.
The Shrāddha ceremonies range from simple to highly complex according tot he capacity and conviction of the individual.
The key elements are:
I am often asked if these offerings actually benefit the deceased. We have no idea, but what we do know is that these ceremonies - like most of the ceremonies we perform have a psychotherapeutic value to the performers themselves. It is the performer that achieves peace of mind, and satisfaction and sense of fulfilment - and this is what is most important. It also educates the children and imbues in them an appreciation of family and the respect due to parents.
The efficacy of Shrāddha was already questioned thousands of years ago by the Chārvāka materialists who cynically asked if by feeding a Brahmin the ancestors are satisfied then why don’t you eat food and drink water for someone who is on a journey to another place
What is the easiest way to perform Shraddha for a deceased parent?
The operative mechanism of a Shraddha ritual is Anna-dāna or feeding of the poor and needy.
So not only the “easiest” way but in fact the “best” way is to either contribute foodstuffs in the name of the deceased, for the feeding of people or giving a donation to those who are professionally engaged in catering to the dietary needs of the poor, the needy and even those who're now in lockdown.
The glory and merit of feeding people is elucidated in the following slokas from the Mahābhārata Vana Parva:–
teśām eva śramārtānāṁ yo hyannaṁ kathayed budhaḥ |annadātṛ samaḥ sopi kīrtyate nātra saṁśayaḥ ||That wise one who informs the toil-worn ones of the name of the person who may give them food, is, without doubt, regarded as equal in merit unto the giver himself of food.tasmāt tvaṁ sarva dānāni hitvā'nnaṁ saṁprayaccha ha |na hīdṛṣaṁ puṇya phalaṁ vicitrām iha vidyate ||Therefore, abstaining from other kinds of gift, give only food. There is no merit (arising out of gifts) that is so great as that of giving food.yannam eva viśiṣṭaṁ hi tasmāt parataraṁ na ca |annaṁ prajāpatiścoktaḥ sa ca saṁvatsaro mataḥ ||There is nothing superior to nourishment. Therefore, food is regarded as the first and foremost of all things (to be given away). It has been said that food itself is Prajāpati.saṁvatsarastu yajño'sau sarvaṁ yajñe pratiṣṭhitam |tasmāt sarvāṇi bhūtāni sthāvarāṇi carāṇi ca ||And Prajāpati is regarded as the Year. And the Year is sacrifice. And everything is established in sacrifice, for it is from sacrifice that all creatures, mobile and immobile, take their origin.tasmād annaṁ viśiṣṭaṁ hi sarvebhyaiti viśrutam ||For this reason, it has been heard by us, food is the foremost of all things.yeśāṁ taṭākāni mahodakāni, vāpyaśca kūpāśca prati-śrayāśca |annasya dānaṁ madhurā ca vāṇī, yamasya te nirvacanā bhavanti ||They that give away (for public use) lakes and large bodies of water, and tanks and wells, and shelter and food and they that have sweet words for all, will never hear the admonitions of Yama (at the exit-interview).annadāḥ prathamaṁ yānti satya vākyad anantaram |ayācita pradātā ca samaṁ yānti trayo janāḥ ||The giver of food walks in front, after him the speaker of truth and one that gives unto those who do not solicit walks behind. But all three go to the same ultimate abode.
teśām eva śramārtānāṁ yo hyannaṁ kathayed budhaḥ |
annadātṛ samaḥ sopi kīrtyate nātra saṁśayaḥ ||
That wise one who informs the toil-worn ones of the name of the person who may give them food, is, without doubt, regarded as equal in merit unto the giver himself of food.
tasmāt tvaṁ sarva dānāni hitvā'nnaṁ saṁprayaccha ha |
na hīdṛṣaṁ puṇya phalaṁ vicitrām iha vidyate ||
Therefore, abstaining from other kinds of gift, give only food. There is no merit (arising out of gifts) that is so great as that of giving food.
yannam eva viśiṣṭaṁ hi tasmāt parataraṁ na ca |
annaṁ prajāpatiścoktaḥ sa ca saṁvatsaro mataḥ ||
There is nothing superior to nourishment. Therefore, food is regarded as the first and foremost of all things (to be given away). It has been said that food itself is Prajāpati.
saṁvatsarastu yajño'sau sarvaṁ yajñe pratiṣṭhitam |
tasmāt sarvāṇi bhūtāni sthāvarāṇi carāṇi ca ||
And Prajāpati is regarded as the Year. And the Year is sacrifice. And everything is established in sacrifice, for it is from sacrifice that all creatures, mobile and immobile, take their origin.
tasmād annaṁ viśiṣṭaṁ hi sarvebhyaiti viśrutam ||
For this reason, it has been heard by us, food is the foremost of all things.
yeśāṁ taṭākāni mahodakāni, vāpyaśca kūpāśca prati-śrayāśca |
annasya dānaṁ madhurā ca vāṇī, yamasya te nirvacanā bhavanti ||
They that give away (for public use) lakes and large bodies of water, and tanks and wells, and shelter and food and they that have sweet words for all, will never hear the admonitions of Yama (at the exit-interview).
annadāḥ prathamaṁ yānti satya vākyad anantaram |
ayācita pradātā ca samaṁ yānti trayo janāḥ ||
The giver of food walks in front, after him the speaker of truth and one that gives unto those who do not solicit walks behind. But all three go to the same ultimate abode.
What are Hindu samskaras?
Samskaras a purificatory sacraments that mark the main transitions which on individual passes through during the course of their life - they are stage-markers.
There are 40 Samskaras for Brahmins and ten principal and generally recognised Samskaras applicable to ALL Hindus regardless of caste which are:
Garbhadāna – impregnation
Puṁsavana & Sīmantonnayana – ceremonies pertaining to pregnancy and the welfare of the foetus and successful parturition.
Jātakarma – birth ceremony
Nāmakarana – naming ceremony
Annaprāśana – weaning ceremony
Niṣkramana – first outing from the house.
Cūḍākarma – first shaving of the head.
Upanayana – Vedic initiation - nowadays done mainly by Brahmins.
Vivāha – wedding ceremony
antyeṣṭi – funeral ceremony.
Of these ten, only wedding and funeral are now performed by almost every Hindu.
Some of the Samskaras pertain to infantile life and early childhood as well as starting school. The whole life of the Hindu is thus consecrated from the cradle to the grave.
Then there are all the ceremonies relating to the after-life - the srāddhas.
The 40 samskāras obligatory for brahmins only are as follows:–
Every Brahmin in order to fulfil the duties and obligations of their estate need to perform all these yajñas in the their life-time.
The first 10 PLUS
Four Veda Vrathas( Sacred Vows) – Prajāpatya, Saumya, Agneya, Vaiśva Deva
Samāvartanam – graduation from Vedic study
Pancha Mahā Yajñam done daily but also applicable to all other Hindus-
Deva Yajña (For Gods),
Pitru Yajña (For Ancestors),
Manuṣya Yajña (Hospitality and charity)
Bhūta Yajña (For the environment),
Brahma yajña (Duty of study and teaching of Vedas or allied literature in the case of non-Brahmins)
Seven Paka Yajñas involving cooked oblations.
Pārvana (bimonthly yajñas)
Caitrī (īśāna bali)
Seven Havir Yajñas
Agni ādhānam - setting up the sacred fires
Agnihotram - daily oblations into the domestic fire
Darsapūrna Māsam- yajñas of new-moon and full-moon.·
Nirūḍha Paśu Bandham,
Seven Soma Yajñas-
What is the use of rituals like Shraddha or Pitru Tarpan? Is it necessary? Is it bad to skip these? If yes, why is the non Hindu population just fine without it?
The whole point of these rituals to to express GRATITUDE. Our parents are our primary gods, they have given us life, nurturing, education, protection etc. and have made huge sacrifices for us. Parents will starve themselves in order for their children to eat.
This selfless solicitude should never go without recognition and sincere gratitude. According to the Shastras the only sin for which hell is the consequence is “ingratitude!”
So, our duty is to care for our parents in their old age, perform their cremation rituals and then for the rest of our lives to make monthly or yearly offerings of simple things like libations of water (tarpana) and sraddhas - feeding people - on their behalf.
So whether they receive any benefit or not is irrelevant. It is for US. The Shastras describe many different ways to perform Shraddha from an elaborate dining ritual to simply giving grass to a cow. It is up to the individual as to how complex one wishes to make these ceremonies.
Good knowledge thanks for sharing
What processes should be followed upon someone's death (till cremation and after) in Sanatana Dharma?
The process of transition starts the moment we are notified that a person is dying. There are several regional variations but I shall describe the standard practice.
If possible we visit the dying person to learn their final requests, wills etc. and then just before the moment of death we remove the person to a new grass mat placed on the floor - they should not die on a bed and should die as consciously as possible. The moment of death is the greatest opportunity for liberation. Usually doing the stages of dying we either chant the name of God or play a recording - the usual one being the Vishnu Sahasranama Stotram.
It is important to notify a funeral priest before the death occurs and to take his advice and guidance. If possible the priest will also attend to administer the final sacrament of holy water and tulsi leaf.
Preparations are made for the cremation to be done as soon as possible after death.
Once the person has left the body it is washed by the family and is smeared with sandal-wood paste and it is dressed in new clothes - white for males and widows and red or any other colour for girls and women. A lamp is lit and kept at the place of death and will be kept burning till the final ceremonies.
A garland is placed around the neck and the body is decorated. The funeral priest will perform a purification ceremony since the body is being prepared as an offering into the sacred fire (this is the puruṣa-medha).
The males get their heads and faces shaved, take bath and wear a single white dhoti. A
In the olden days a fire would be lit either on the stomach or in the mouth of the corpse and some oblations of ghee and sesame seeds offered. Nowadays it is done in a copper fire pan beside the corpse. The fire is placed in a clay vessel and is carried along with the holy water to the cremation ground.
The corpse is then conveyed to the burning-ground. In North India the ceremonies are conducted according to the Garuda Purana and five rice-balls are offered on the way. This is not done in the South.
On arrival at the cemetery a place is prepared for the final ceremonies. The body is placed on the ground which is the Divine Mother and representative of Brahma the creator. The relatives are invited to view the body and to make offerings either of flowers or rice - The ceremony also includes the breaking of a clay pot of water by the chief mourner.
The body is then either placed on a funeral pyre or inserted into the cremation oven and the fire or button pushed by the chief mourner. The fire is Shiva who transforms the body into ashes.
Oblations of sesame seeds and water are made to the deceased and all the mourners return home via the river bank or the sea-shore. The should sit there till evening grieving for the deceased.
In evening they return home and bathe before entering the house and commence the mourning routine during the mourning period the rules are:–
The family is encouraged and facilitated to mourner and grieve for the deceased without any restraint. If the family can afford it the funeral priest will come everyday for the daily rituals and to read from the Shastras. It was traditional the Garuda Purana which is a huge text nowadays I suggest Bhagavad Gita only or a highly filtered and condensed condensed version of the GP which I have compiled.
On about the 3rd day the ashes are collected and accompanied by the funeral priest the mourners will repair either to the river-bank or sea-shore to perform the immersion of the ashes into water - which is representative of Vishnu.
Usually the duration of the above-mentioned mourning rituals depend upon the customs of the community - either 10, 12, 16 or 40 days and the complexity of the ceremonies to be performed (maximum among Brahmins).
Nowadays we advise 3 days minimum for everyone.
The final rites are performed over three days in the case of Brahmins and in the case of non-Brahmins are condensed into 2 days.
The first day being concerned with the purificatory rites and celebration of the end of mourning, ceremonial bathing, shaving in the case of men, and the donning of brand new clothes. According to the prosperity of the chief mourner and the wishes of the deceased and the value of his estate gifts are distributed to the funeral priests consisting of 10 or 16 items, cows, gold, silver, clothes etc.
The final day is occupied with the providing of a feast for the entire community - in South among vaishnavas this is called Vaikuṇṭha Samārādhanam.
What is the meaning of swaha chanted in Hindu rituals?
SVĀHĀ is defined as svatva-hanana-iti-svāhā - sva = self, hanana = effacement of erasure of, so the translation would be
svāhā indicates the abnegation of all “sense of self” i.e. ego (ahaṅkāra) and “possessiveness” (mamata) - associated with the oblation which I am offering into the fire which is symbolic of the wisdom which destroys all ignorance in the very form of identity and possessiveness.
Every oblation is followed by the statement na mama which means “not mine”
It is the declaratory mantra of renunciation (tyāga) and surrender.
So in the fire-ritual svāhā and na mama are linked.
yat-karoṣi yad-aśnāsi yaj-juhoṣi dadāsi yat |yat-tapasyasi kaunteya tat-kuruṣva mad-arpaṇam || 27 ||Gita 9:27. Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer in sacrifice, whatever you give away, whatever austerity you practice, O Kaunteya, do that as an offering to Me.
yat-karoṣi yad-aśnāsi yaj-juhoṣi dadāsi yat |
yat-tapasyasi kaunteya tat-kuruṣva mad-arpaṇam || 27 ||
Gita 9:27. Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer in sacrifice, whatever you give away, whatever austerity you practice, O Kaunteya, do that as an offering to Me.
If wearing Janeu is a ritual and it has benefits, then why doesn't everyone wear it?
The Janeu (yajñopavīta/ sacred thread) has no benefits whatsoever except to use for scratching the back and for hanging the house keys on.
The scriptural injunction is that during all ceremonial activities the right shoulder must be exposed - not for any “scientific” reason but because of sartorial protocols.
The sacred thread became the substitute for the upper garment (anga-vastra). It consists of three threads bound into one which affirms that the wearer should constantly practice the discipline of control over mind, body and speech.
Because the dvijas (twice-born) were supposed to perform the ritual of Sandhya Vandana 3 times a day it became convenient to just keep the thread on 24/7.
Apastamba Dharma Sutra Praśna 2. Paṭala 2. Khaṇḍa 4.
nityam uttaraṃ vāsaḥ kāryam || 21 ||21. [A householder] must always wear his garment over [his left shoulder and under his right arm].api vā sūtram eva- upavītārthe || 22 ||22. Or he may use a cord only, slung over his left shoulder and passed under his right arm, instead of the garment.
nityam uttaraṃ vāsaḥ kāryam || 21 ||
21. [A householder] must always wear his garment over [his left shoulder and under his right arm].
api vā sūtram eva- upavītārthe || 22 ||
22. Or he may use a cord only, slung over his left shoulder and passed under his right arm, instead of the garment.
These 2 sūtras indicate that the wearing of the sacred thread (yajñopavītam) was optional in the time of Apastamba and originally was used as a substitute for the actual garment (anga-vastra).
The three strands indicate and remind one that the purpose of wearing the sacred thread is to continuously exert control over body, speech and mind. If one is not doing this then it is useless.
I personally know wearers of the sacred thread who lie, cheat and beat their wives - but keep their threads in tip-top condition.
The thicker and more pronounced the thread the more one should be on guard against them
What is the importance of Sankalp in any pooja, Archana, and Homam?
Every ritual act is preceded by the recitation of the saṅkalpaḥ.
The saṅkalpaḥ is the statement of intent and purpose of the ritual about to be undertaken. It is the complete focusing of the mind of the participants upon the purpose of the ritual — a clarification of intent.
Intent is the factor that causes a probability to materialise as a definite event. Intent is the factor which interlaces and joins events in our lives into a tapestry of coherence. Intent is the factor by which change becomes transformation. Intent is the factor which determines the positive or negative ethics of an act. If intent is absent, there is no meaningful connection between our life’s experiences, and the cosmic dynamic of change in which we unwillingly participate appears random, capricious, and even chaotic.
Events only become meaningful to us as the result of an intent which rises from a vision of a goal, path or direction in which we intend moving. When the intent is clear and focused, paths will automatically appear.
The saṅkalpa consists of: —
(a) the statement of the spacio-temporal factors which limit and confine the ritual activity,
(b) the type of ritual and
(c) the purpose or expected outcome of the ritual.
The practitioner, sitting cross-legged, performs prāṇāyāma in order to purify the channels of the subtle body and to clear the mind, one then holds the hands in the pose (mudra) known as brahma-āsana — the right hand clasped in a fist resting downward on the upturned left palm which has been placed on the right knee. This represents the pose of the Creator Brahma sitting upon the lotus which issued from the navel of Lord Vishnu at the time of creation. The Vedas declare that in the beginning the Creator conceived of the universe in his mind before projecting it into a concrete reality. The practitioner is now participating in the on-going act of creation by mentally conceiving of an event that will be projected into time and space.
After thrice invoking the name of the Supreme Being the practitioner calls to mind the time and the astronomical data for the day. She mentions the location of the ritual with reference to the Axis Mundi — Mount Meru. She then states the type of ritual and the purpose; whether it be for material or spiritual benefits or merely as an act of service to the Supreme Being
The recital of the saṅkalpa concentrates the mind of the practitioner on the activity at hand and clarifies the purpose. The entire Universe is manas-sambhava — created from the mind of the Godhead. The ritual is an enactment of that original creation through sacrifice and is an active participation therein and so it starts with a mental resolve.
The word Saṁskāra is one of those words for which there is no single exactcorresponding word in the English language. It is usually translated as "more,religious rite, ceremony, social observances, formalities and punctilious behaviour." But none of these words convey the actual meaning of the Sanskrit termSaṁskāra.
The closest approximation is the word sacrament which means:—“religious ceremony or act regarded as an outward and visible sign of inward andspiritual grace”.In the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches it includes the seven rites of baptism, confirmation, communion, penance, extreme unction, orders and matrimony.The word
Saṁskāra is derived from the Sanskrit root meaning “to refine”. In theclassical Sanskrit literature the word Saṁskāra is used in a very wide sense:— in the sense of education, cultivation, training, making perfect, refining, polishing,embellishment, impression, form, mould, operation, impression on the sub-consciousmind, a purificatory rite, a sacred rite or ceremony, consecration, sanctification and hallowing; idea, notion and conception; effect of work, merit of action etc.
Pānini defines saṁskāra as samparyupebhyaḥ karotu bhūṣaṇe — that which adornsone’s personality.The Śabda-koṣa defines it as saṃskārāṇāṃ guṇāntarādhānam saṃskāraḥ — that whichbrings about quality transformation.
In the Jaimini sūtras (111. 1. 3) the sage explains the term Saṁskāra as:— “an actwhich makes a certain thing or person fit for a certain purpose”.The Tantra-vartika (p. 1078) defines Saṁskāra as:— “those acts and rites that impartsuitability or fitness [adhikāra]” and further adds that adhikāra is of two kinds:—
1. The removal of negative mental conditioning (pāpa-kṣaya)
2. The generation of positive qualities through purification of the mind (citta- śuddhi).
The word "Saṁskāra" as "sacrament" means the religious purificatory rites andceremonies for sanctifying the body, mind and intellect of an individual.The purpose of life is a gradual training in spiritual-unfoldment. All of life is a ritualand a sacrament and every phase of one's physical evolution should be sanctified forservice of the Divine.
By means of the Saṁskāras, the mind is reawakened to the Ultimate Goal in life whichis spiritual wisdom and Liberation from the cycle of births and deaths.Through the compulsory performance of the Saṁskāras in ancient India the goal of thegreat Rishis was the nurturing a society uniform in culture and character and having the same ethical ideals and spiritual aims.
They were successful to a great extent in theirattempt. The Hindus are a very heterogenous group with an extremely rich and complex culture, the core elements of which were assimilated by the entire South East Asian region and in fact influenced even the great nations of China and Japan.
Social privileges and rights are also connected with the Saṁskāras. The Upanayana(initiation ceremony) is the sine qua non for admission into the BrahminicalT4Community and its sacred literature — the Vedas. Without the Upanayana one cannotstudy the Vedas and thus does not attain competency to perform the sacred rites enjoined by the Vedas.
The Scriptures emphatically declare that a brahmin isonly such by virtue of learning and wisdom. Anignorant brahmin is a contradiction in terms. Todayit is commonly seen that those who are born intobrahmin families wear the sacred thread and claimthe revered status but do not know if the Vedas andUpanishads are potable or edible!The Āgamas opened the way for the reception of thesacraments by all members of the Hindu communitywith the use of Tantric mantras in place of the Vedictexts. The Sacraments have generally beingadministered to all communities with non-Vedicmantras. Over the centuries many local observancesand customs were adopted — hence the remarkablevariation noticed today in marriage ceremonies forexample.
Nowadays the sacraments apart form marriage andfinal rites have been largely neglected by nonbrahmin communities throughout the world and evenamongst the Brahmins it is only a few die-hards thatstill receive them as prescribed by Scripture.
With revivalist movements like the Arya Samaj, and proselytising movements likeISKCON and the Universal Saiva Church in Hawaii, the Saṁskāras are once againbeing rejuvenated and enlivened by being administered to all members of thecommunity who request them.
1. The Aim of the Saṁskāras.
Sacraments are "an outward visible sign of an inward spiritual grace."For Hindus the Saṁskāras are a living, vibrant religious experience. Through theSacraments of the life cycles, the body which is the temple of God is sanctified andrendered fit for service to God. The Saṁskāras are a means of moulding the personalityof the individual, and through this moulding one becomes an ideal member of societyand an enlightened being.The performance of the Saṁskāras is also linked to material benefits that are prayed for.In all the Saṁskāras prayers are offered for prosperity, wealth, cattle, fame, honour,learning etc. But it must be stressed that none of these material benefits are desired fortheir own sake.
The purpose of having more wealth is to be able to distribute it in charity to others. The fame sought is not worldly fame but fame of spiritual accomplishment gained through learning and wisdom. Knowledge of the Veda was sought in order to be able to impart it to others.The priests have always welcomed and blessed the material aspirations of commonpeople. Wealth is the basis of dharma, and dharma is the basis for a peaceful, contentedand spiritually orientated society.
In describing the aims of the saṃskāras, the sage Aṅgirasa gives the analogy of apainting and says, "Just as a picture is painted with various colours, so the character ofan individual is formed by undergoing various Saṁskāras properly".Vīramitrodaya in his Saṃskāra Prakāśa claims:—
ātma-śarīrānyatar-niṣṭho vihit-kriyājanyo atiśaya viśeṣaḥ saṃskāraḥ
The saṁskāra is a unique religious act that gives rise to virtuous qualities.
The Eight Ātma GuṇasThe sage Gautama gives eight spiritual-virtues of the Self (ātma-guṇas), that need to becultivated for spiritual unfoldment and this is achieved through the medium of theSaṁskāras.
The eight gunas or qualities of the Self are are:— dayā, kṣānti, anasūya, śauca,anayāsa, maṅgala, akārpaṇya, aspṛha.viz., compassion, forbearance, freedom fromenvy, purity, calmness, right behaviour, and freedom from greed and covetousness
Dayā — compassion. This implies love for all creatures, such love being thevery fulfilment of life. There is indeed no greater happiness than that derived byloving others. Dayā is the basis of all the spiritual qualities.!
Kṣānti — patience. One aspect of kṣānti is patiently tolerating disease, poverty,misfortune and so on. The second is forgiveness and it implies loving a personwho even causes us pain and trouble.!
Anasūya — freedom from envy. Envy or jealousy is burning pain caused byanother's possession, prosperity or status. Understanding that everythingobtained and achieved by us is due to personal effort as well as Karmicpotential, we must be mature enough to regard another’s better position as theresult of good actions done in their previous birth.!
Śauca — purity or cleanliness. Purity is to be maintained in all matters such asenvironment, bathing, dress and food.1!
Anayāsa — calmness. It is the opposite of "ayāsa" which denotes effort, stress,exertion, etc. Anayāsa means to have a feeling of lightness, to take things easy.One must avoid becoming stressed and succumbing to mental strain. One mustnot feel any duty to be a burden and must develop the attitude that everythinghappens according to the will of the Lord, and all acts are to be done as serviceto the Supreme.!
Maṅgala — auspiciousness. Maṅgala is an air of happiness that is characterisedby dignity and purity. We must remain cheerful and happy and radiatehappiness and joy wherever we go and exude auspiciousness.!
Akārpaṇya — generosity. Miserliness is known as kṛpana. "Akārpaṇya" is theopposite of miserliness. We must give generously and whole-heartedly. AtKuruksetra Arjuna felt dejected and refused to wage war with his own kin. Indoing so, according to the Gita, he was guilty of "kārpanya doṣa". It means,contextually, that he abased himself to a woeful state, he became "miserly" about himself. Akārpaṇya is the quality of a courageous and zestful person whocan face problems determinedly.!
Aspṛha — non-grasping. "Spṛha" means desire, a grasping nature. "Aspṛha" isthe opposite, being without grasping desire. Desire is at the root of all sufferingbut to eradicate it from the mind seems an almost impossible task. By performing rites again and again and by constantly endeavouring to acquire the spiritual qualities one will eventually become free from grasping desire.
2. Participants.The direct participants in all the Saṁskāras are the family unit — mother, father andchildren, but it is customary to invite all the close relatives to witness and to be part ofthe rites and ceremonies. Every Saṁskāra is also accompanied by the customaryfeeding and distributing of gifts.If the father is learned in the Veda then it is he that administers the sacraments to hischildren, but in most cases one uses the services of the family priest (purohita). It isusual to invite one priest for the regular sacrament but in marriage ceremonies it iscustomary to have two priests — one from bride's side and one from the groom's side.The person who institutes the performance of a Saṁskāra is known as the Yajamāna— the patron or sacrificer
3. The Constituent Elements of the Sacraments -There are two general elements underlying the Saṁskāras founded upon the dualconcept of sakala and niṣkala.The material world as we experience it through our 5 senses is known as the sakalarealm — the objective realm of form. In this connection the Saṁskāra is a purely socialevent.The second realm is the niṣkala — the subjective realm of our inner experiences whichinclude the lower and the higher astral planes. From this perspective the Saṁskāras area spiritual event of great importance in bringing about transformation through theseeding of positive affirmations.3:1. The mystical element.The mystical element in the Saṁskāras is based on the niṣkala concept of positiveand negative cosmic forces (Devas & Asuras) which affect one for good or bad —all of reality consists of positive and negative forces and Hindu ritual is aimed at abalancing and harmonising these forces — not eliminating one in favour of theother.It is considered that these cosmic forces become particularly strong in theirpotential influence at every important juncture in a person's life. Duringpregnancy and childbirth the mother and child become particularly susceptible tothese cosmic forces. Therefore, certain rites performed during the Saṁskāras aredesigned to remove hostile and negative forces (Asuras) and to attract beneficialones (Devas), so that there will be unobstructed prosperity and development.Hindus believe that humankind requires protection, consecration and refinement.For this we depended on cosmic forces known as Devas. (lit. Shining Ones).
These Devas are able to help us to a certain limited degree in our material wellbeing and spiritual evolution but they cannot give us Liberation, only the SupremeBeing can do that.
(a) Attraction of Favourable Influences.
Invocations of Cosmic Forces and prayers are the front line methods ofattracting favourable influences. At the time of marriage; Prajāpati — theLord of Progeny, and at the time of the initiation — Brihaspati— thePreceptor of the Devas is invoked for protection and fulfilment of the rite.At the time of the Garbhadhāna (Conception) Vishnu as the PreservingEnergy of the cosmos is invoked and asked to bless and protect the embryo.Suggestion and reference to analogous phenomena play a great part inHindu mysticism. Touch exercises a psychological power and thus bytouching things that are beneficial in themselves one attracts positiveinfluences.e.g. In the Sīmantonnayana ceremonies a sprout of the Udumbara (fig) treeis touched to the head of the wife in order to convey the wish for a maleoffspring. Mounting a grinding stone during the marriage and initiationceremonies brings about stability and the overcoming of conflict. Touchingthe heart during the marriage rites signifies union and produces harmonybetween husband and wife. As breath is a symbol of life, the father breathesthrice on the new-born child to confer His blessings and protection.The two major sacraments of initiation and marriage are usually precededby the planting of seeds by happily married women (sumaṅgalīs2). Thisceremony is accompanied with chants for the ever increasing health andprosperity of the recipients.
(b) The Elimination of Hostile Influences.
For eliminating the negative influences several means are adopted. The firstof them is propitiation — offerings are made to the elementals and forces ofchaos (bhūtas) in order to appease them and thus avert any negativity.Another method is simply getting rid of anything that could attractnegativity. For example, at the time of tonsure (head-shaving ceremony) thehair is mixed with cow dung and buried in a cow shed or thrown into ariver, so that it could not be used in black magic. Noise is made at the timeof tying the maṅgala sūtra (Token of wedlock) to drive away negativeforces. Combing the hair at the time of the Sīmantonnayana (Hair-parting)was also a means to remove evil influences. But when propitiation isinefficient, another step is taken — mischievous spirits are forcefullyexpelled, threatened and directly attacked with mantras and gestures.Certain prayers are offered for their destruction such as those used duringthe birth ceremonies for the protection of the mother and child.
(c) Benedictions -Benedictions pronounced by the priests and confirmed by the congregationconvey the sentiment of goodwill and affection towards celebrants. It isbelieved that priests through their practice of truth, piety and meditation
have the power to absolve one of sins and to bless. Anything that a piouspriest says in sincerity is bound to come true, hence every sacrament endswith the pronunciation of the benedictions. It is also important to note thatthe benedictions recited are always particular as well as general. Theparticular benedictions relate to the welfare of the immediate family, andthese are always followed by the universal benedictions for the welfare ofall beings in all the realms of existence. At every major occasion in our liveswe remember that we are part of the cosmic symphony, and we extend ourblessings, compassion, loving kindness and good-will to all beings thatshare this Cosmos with us.
The Social Aspect of the Sacraments.
One of the fundamental propositions of Hindu civilisation is that every singleindividual is an important member of society and is dependant for his/hersurvival on the integrity, security and wellbeing of the group. Therefore individualrights are secondary to the rights of the group as a whole. Every Saṁskārareaffirms this inter-dependence on the group by having all the family andneighbours participate in the celebrations. Food which is the basis of life is animportant auxiliary to all Hindu celebrations, and a sacrament would not be asacrament if there was not the customary feeding of the guests
Do superstitions have some scientific basis?
Superstition is by definition unscientific but there are a couple of customs and traditions that were thought to be “superstitious” but have turned out to have a sound scientific basis.
Take for example the custom of confining the mother and child after birth and not allowing any visitors for 10 days - technically called a period of “impurity” - aśaucam. Most “modern” folks today have rejected this practice as superstition - but there is a medical reason behind it.
The baby receives its antibodies from the mother’s milk and for the first 10 days its immune system is not strong enough to deal with infections that are passed on by handling by numerous people touching and spraying their droplets around.
The ancients didn’t know this but from repeated observation noticed that children were susceptible to infection after birth.
This is also a time for facilitating mother and child bonding and to give the mother a well-earned rest and learn from her mother how babies are to be handled bathed etc.
Man young couples that I have married and guided are once again reinstating this meaningful tradition of “confinement” with gratitude and wellbeing.
Does Hinduism define superstition?
The tern used for superstition is “andha-viśvās” which literally means “blind faith”.
Much of it is to do with “bad luck” which is a very bizarre belief among people that purport to believe in Karma!
The reasons which cause us to mess-up are;–
Bad luck or cats crossing our paths or any other silly fancy has nothing to do with it.
Superstition (andha-viśvās) has to be differentiated from (maṅgala-karya) or doing things to generate “auspiciousness” such as hanging garlands over doorways, or placing banana leaves on each side of the door or drawing rice flour patters (rangoli or kolam) in front of doorways or putting lamps in key places in the evening - all these and many others are done in order to generate auspiciousness and delight.
Why do irrational beliefs persist in Hinduism?
This is a good question. Irrational beliefs persist in every religion – its an integral part of the package of “Faith” which is defined as firm belief in something without evidence.
The reason is that everyone is different - from the perspective of personality (svabhāva) - from their learning, achievements and experience (bhūmika) and from their capacity to understand, comprehend and integrate their knowledge and apply themselves (adhikāra).
So obviously people all believe on different levels according to their attachments, desires, hopes, fears, expectations etc.
The big difference though, between Hinduism and other religions is Philosophy. Some religions are underpinned by Theology which is faith-based and others by Philosophy which is rational.
The philosophy of Hinduism is known as Vedānta - which is it’s core. Vedānta is based on rational and critical thought and the cultivation of discursive reasoning. Logic and argument are encouraged and evidence demanded.
Shankaracharya define śraddhā often translated as “faith” as:–
śāstrasya guruvākyasya satya-buddhyavadhāraṇam | sā śraddhā kathitā sadbhir-yayā vastūpalabhyate ||“Faith (or more correctly conviction) is based on a critical examination of the Scriptures and the teachings of the Guru and which will lead to the attainment of the desired end.”
śāstrasya guruvākyasya satya-buddhyavadhāraṇam | sā śraddhā kathitā sadbhir-yayā vastūpalabhyate ||
“Faith (or more correctly conviction) is based on a critical examination of the Scriptures and the teachings of the Guru and which will lead to the attainment of the desired end.”
The desired end of Indian philosophy is freedom (mukti) from suffering (duḥkha). This is the goal to which everything must be judged — “does a particular belief contribute to liberation from suffering or not?”
Sadly over 5000 years plus a huge mass of encrustations have accumulated which need to be chipped away. Sorting out the superfluous stuff, getting rid of superstitions, irrational beliefs and outmoded customs and rituals is a huge task for the reformer since people are loath to divest themselves of the cherished delusions.
Many Hindus and non-Hindus erroneously take the external practices, superstitions and other irrational stuff to be all that Hinduism is about. Young Hindus, being well-educated lose faith and renounce Hinduism because no rational answers are forthcoming from the elders and priests - who demand blind adherence to the implausible and absurd.
So as more Hindus begin studying Vedanta and following the teachings, the more the irrational aspects will dissipate.
Are Hindus becoming increasingly more superstitious and conservative?
Superstitious and conservative are disparate in the same sentence.
Superstition is a belief in something without evidence transmitted by hearsay and grounded in fear.
Conservative is simply holding on to tradition values - superstition I would not call a “value” of any sorts.
The problem with Hindu society is that there are so many “traditional” priests and astrologers who simply keep reiterating and advising anachronistic stuff that has been handed down over thousands of years without applying any sorts of rational filters or adding any updates.
The usual formula is:–
“If you do x then y will occur” - “If you pay me money and we do a ceremony then we’ll will avert the negative consequences.” “If the ritual doesn’t work first time, then we will require more money to perform even bigger juju until it works or you’re broke!”
Now this mentality is really bizarre and astonishing for a civilisation which has KARMA as a core doctrine. You can be a Hindu without belief in God but impossible not to believe in KARMA.
Karma says that all actions have consequences - and in a moral universe everything that we have or experience, comes to us due to past actions, and our future is determined by our current actions.
Philosophy is the antithesis to superstition and not a single superstitious belief can demonstrate a rational cause and effect connection - like if you marry x something will happen to y, or if you don't do this ceremony or sacrifice a black chicken then xyz will happen! Of if you fall pregnant on a new-moon then your child will have a macrocephalous! etc.
Not a single superstitious belief can produce any statistical evidence to confirm its effect.
My constant refrain is — “I wish Hindus would stop all this silliness, abandon the fairy fables and old wives tales and seriously take up the study of VEDANTA - thereby their lives will be truly enriched, superstition rejected and society benefitted!”
Hindu cremations are being done in India without the proper rituals. What is the rectification process?
This great catastrophe falls under the provision of the Apad-dharma (Dharma of Tribulation) guidelines.
Death from a disease like COVID is rextremely traumatic both for the dying and for the surviving relatives. It is believed that traumatic deaths result in the departed one becoming a PRETA or “Hungry Ghost” and remain earth-bound for a period of time - unable to transition to the next incarnation.
The cremations being done without the proper rites is not the problem - the major issue is the family being so overwhelmed that they don’t have time to process the grief through the proper ritual channels which would support and nurture them.
According to the Shastras - during a national catastrophe all rituals can be suspended until an appropriate and suitable time eventuates.
There are 3 options for the rectification of the matter.
Why do Hindus only offer bananas and coconuts to gods?
We don’t only offer bananas and coconut - we offer all fruit but these two are predominated because of their symbolic value.
The cultivated bananas are incapable of reproducing from the fruit - they reproduce from the roots. So the fruit itself is useless to the tree but beneficial for other creatures to sustain themselves.
The other factor is that every part of the banana tree is useful - its core and flower can be eaten, the fibres and leaves can be used in the construction of shelter and utensils and even the water in the stem can be squeezed out and drunken.
So the banana symbolises the ideal way we should live in the world - as the Sanskrit saying goes - paropakārārtham śarīram idam - “this body is meant for the benefit of others”. A life that is not lived in service is a wasted life.
gacchatis-tiṣṭhato vāpi jāgrataḥ svapato na cet |sarva sattva hitārthāya paśor-iva viceṣṭitam ||If we don't dedicate all our actions, while walking, or standing, while sleeping or awake, for the benefit of all beings then we act like animals.
gacchatis-tiṣṭhato vāpi jāgrataḥ svapato na cet |
sarva sattva hitārthāya paśor-iva viceṣṭitam ||
If we don't dedicate all our actions, while walking, or standing, while sleeping or awake, for the benefit of all beings then we act like animals.
Bananas are always offered in pairs never in single units - this symbolises the binary nature of the world.
The coconut symbolises our metaphysical composition. It consists of three parts - shell, kernel and the water.
This is analogous to us.
We have a physical body (sthūla-śarīra) - represented by the shell.
A subtle or astral body (sūkṣma śarīra) - i.e. a mental-emotional sheath represented by the kernel.
And a causal body (kāraṇa śarīra) represented by the water. The causal body is the repository of all our subliminal activators (saṁskāras), habitual pattern formations Brough over from the previous birth (vāsanas) and the are the seeds of Karma which give rise to this current birth.
The coconut also has three “eyes” which is analogous to our two physical eyes and the third eye of spiritual insight and wisdom.
So when we break the coconut as an offering we are dedicating our selves to the principle of Divinity and expressing the ultimate goal of Self-realisation - quiting the body, ending the cycle of rebirth and merging with the Divine.
Along with these two we offer betel leaves and nuts - (tāmbūlam) - a wad of betel leaves, nuts and lime are a respectful offering to guests - the three items represent the three qualities of nature (rajas/activity, sattva/balance, tamas/inertia).
The other items offered are:-
Water symbolises the life force of the universe it also represents Vishnu.
Incense represents the all-pervading nature of the Divine, it represents the spreading out of the universe under the direction of the creator Brahma.
Flowers remind us of the transitory and ephemeral nature of all existence — the understanding of which is the basis for our spiritual quest. Flowers thus are also representative of Siva — the transformative energy of the Universe.
Isn't theconcept of Sraddha and Pitra contradictory to the doctrine of karma andreincarnation? How are these two contradictory concepts reconciled in modernHinduism?
A good observation.
Modern Hinduism consists of severallayers that have been laid down over thousands of years. Hinduism is in fluxbecause it is an open source system and is kind of “organic” - changing andmodifying with the passage of time.
Animism which is the worship of natureitself gave way to ancestor worship - a common theme in many culturesthroughout the world.
The Veda Samhitas are not concerned withreincarnation and karma seems to be applicable to the here and now - as in goodworks. The earliest clear references to Reincarnation and the doctrine of Karmaappears in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad which is pre-Buddhist and one of theoldest Upanishads.
Rebirth (punarbhava) was thecore doctrine accepted by Jains, Hindus and Buddhists and gradually the theorywas refined and developed and animism and ancestor worship declined with therise of Buddhism and the establishment of the Maurya dynasty it seems ancestorworship had already declined among the non-brahmin communities.
Hindu schools of thought regained theirfoothold with the decline of Buddhism in India and one can say that for themajority of the population did not regain their interest in ancestor worshipbut held strongly to the doctrines of rebirth and karma.
In our day and age the only ones whostill regularly perform elaborate Sraddhas and other forms of ancestor worshipare the Brahmins. Non-Brahmins who do perform them do so at a much reducedscale of elaboration.
Now in regard to dovetailing ancestorworship with rebirth the theory is that rebirth does not take place immediatelyafter death as described in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. There is a vocationalperiod in the Pitri Loka which is the realm of the ancestors. The deceasedabides there for a while - according to their Karma before taking rebirth. Sowhile they are there, they are gratified by the love and devotion of the familywho continues offering them regular Sraddhas.
There is also a Vedic theology of Devas & Pitris -they are two categories of celestial beings who were all once human and haveattained divine status. Both have the capacity of blessing their worshippersand of fulfilling desires, and both are Divine only temporarily (many hundredsof thousands of human years) and then they all are reborn. So on the Full Moon(Purnima) yajñas are performed for the Devas and on the New Moon (Amavāsya)yajñas are offered to the Pitris.
WheneverI perform ancestral ceremonies I always stress the sociological andpsychological benefit of the ceremonies and not the celestial status of theancestors or the idea that they can give boons and success in material happinessprojects. All Hindu ceremonies are forms of psycho-therapy - particularlyGestalt Therapy.
What arethe benefits of Abhishek on Shivling with different juices/milk products?
Its called “nayana-sukh” - visualdelight.
Its like asking what is the benefit oftwo teams with bats and balls hitting them back and forth. It gives delight tothe beholders. It thrills them and makes them shout in joy and happiness.
Both audiences - those in the temple andthose in the stadium find their sport to be beneficial to them and their mentalwell being.
The difference being, one never leavesthe temple depressed but half the spectators will leave the cricket ground insevere depression.
Differentstrokes for different folks.
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